Several Asian nations are beginning to soften their stances on cannabis and legalize medical marijuana. Legalization is trending around the globe largely due to the booming cannabis market and the exciting future of medical marijuana research. This research shows that cannabis provides real benefits for individuals with seizures, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, inflammation, anxiety, appetite loss, and other ailments. It makes sense that countries like Israel, who have embraced medical marijuana, are now seeing a huge payoff. Nations that fail to embrace medical cannabis are falling behind on progress and profits.
Cannabis in Different Asian Nations
Many Asian nations are notorious for their strict stances against cannabis. However, the push for access to cannabis as medicine has been undeniable. In 2018, South Korea became the first East Asian nation to legalize medical cannabis. This new policy took effect in March, expanding the treatment options to patients with epilepsy and chronic pain.
Thailand has also legalized medical weed, with 80% of the public in favor of this decision. The country is now working towards becoming more 420-friendly overall. Alexandra Curley, head of cannabis research group Prohibition Partners, notes that “[f]or Thailand to become the Asian leader in the cannabis space, it would most likely require that neither China nor Japan legalize cannabis.” Japan has made some progress with cannabis though, particularly with CBD. The nation recently approved clinical trials for a CBD oral compound to treat epilepsy.
In Malaysia, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has called for a review of existing drug laws. The nation’s Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad stated that, “it’s obvious that after 40 years of war on drugs, it has not worked. There should be decriminalization of drugs.”
Even nations famously strict on drugs, like Singapore and The Philippines, can’t resist the call of cannabis. In recent years, Singapore has involved themselves in medical marijuana research. In The Philippines, a bill to allow for medical cannabis gained support from the Philippines Committee of Health, the Philippines Cancer Society, and several lawmakers. However, the bill was ultimately voted down by President Duterte.
Why These Countries Are Legalizing Now
One of the biggest benefits a country stands to gain from legalization is boosting their economy. Experts predict that the Asian medical cannabis market could be worth as much as $5.8 billion by 2024. The two biggest potential markets are China and Japan, and experts predict that “Chinese investors are warming up to the cannabis market.” Hanma Investment Group has become the first Chinese company to extract CBD. It’s only a matter of time before the massive buying power of China influences the medical marijuana market.
Additionally, health care costs for a massive aging population are estimated to be around $2.7 trillion by 2020. Many will be looking for cost-effective forms of medical care, and cannabis pharmaceuticals could fill that need. Experts acknowledge that “[i]n Western markets, recreational cannabis is expected to outperform medicinal cannabis in market forecasts, but in Asia, the opposite is likely to be true.”